The acting talent runs in her blood, and Kareena Kapoor, who turned 33 Saturday, has proved her mettle with projects as versatile as “Jab We Met” and “Omkara” over the years. Here’s looking at the best of her best.
“Refugee” (2000): No film that followed ever captured Kareena’s radiant beauty and ethereal persona as ably as this. Director J.P. Dutta had made a promise to his friend Randhir Kapoor that he would give the latter’s daughter the kind of launch which audiences would remember for all times. He kept his promise. From her first glimpse on screen when Abhishek Bachchan sees her splashing water on her face, it was love at first sight between Kareena and the camera.
Playing a girl scuttling across the border to Pakistan with her family, Kareena reminded us of the screen legends of yore like Nutan, Madhubala and Nargis. Her love affair with the camera has continued for 14 years.
“Asoka” (2001): Following “Refugee”, Kareena was electric on screen as the warrior princess Kaurwaki in this Santosh Sivan-directed pseudo-historical. Kareena exuded fire and passion in every scene with or without Shah Rukh Khan. Her introductory song “San sana san” epitomized her mercurial personality.
“Chameli” (2004): The streetwalker dancing in the rain wearing Manish Malhotra’s kaleidoscopic concept of what a hustler wears, Kareena played the character with not a trace of self-pity and a jar-full of joie de vivre. Director Sudhir Mishra was so impressed that he awaits to this day to work with his ‘Chameli’ again.
“Yuva” (2004) – In Mani Ratnam’s layered chocolate-box of a film, Kareena played the child of caprice – whimsical, passionate, uncertain about her future and altogether a portrait of the gen-X’s genuine self-doubts and passionate protests. No film has captured that gamine-like unpredictable quality of hers so well. Jaya Bachchan loved Kareena in “Yuva”. So did we.
“Dev” (2004): In Govind Nihalani’s film, Kareena played a role directly inspired by Zaheera Sheikh who testified against the death of 14 people in a bakery during the 2002 Gujarat riots. Kareena lived the role of a girl forced to make some very hard decisions about life and death. No makeup, no artifice. Just Kareena and the camera and the truth.
“Fida” (2004): Kareena’s first and so far only negative role. In this Ken Ghosh thriller she gets together with Fardeen Khan to make a sucker out of Shahid Kapoor. It’s hard to imagine Kareena in a negative role. But she pulled it off effortlessly.
“Omkara” (2006): Playing the victim doesn’t come easily to Kareena. Here, playing the desi Desdemona from William Shakespeare’s “Othello”, she brought a heartbreaking vulnerability to the part of the wife of a very jealous husband. The best thing about Kareena’s performance was that she seemed to do so little and yet conveyed so much. Director Vishal Bharadwaj used Kareena’s presence like no other filmmaker.
“Jab We Met” (2007): Kareena’s passport to immortality. The one film that she can show her children to prove that “Mummy was a terrific actor when she set her mind and heart to it”. If in “Omkara” she expressed angst through silences, in “Jab We Met” she was all over the place. Voluble, vivacious and vibrant, she filled the suicidal hero Shahid Kapoor’s life with something vital. We all need that element in our lives.
“Heroine” (2012): Though Madhur Bhandarkar’s film sank at the box-office, Kareena’s brave bravura turn as a superstar on the slide was arresting for its emphatic emotive energy. You couldn’t miss her arrogant self-worth even if you were not familiar with Kareena’s career and personality. The movie’s protagonist Mahi Arora’s descent into a drug-induced hell made us happy that in Kareena’s life, all was well.
“Talaash” (2012): Kareena played a ghost with a tragic past. The performance was contoured by a sense of tragic loss that reminded me of Meryl Streep in “Sophie’s Choice”. When Kareena is at her best, she is untouchable.